Sherlock Holmes Meets Fight Club

Taking a cue from Robert Altman’s 1992 movie The Player, you just know that is how the latest Sherlock Holmes movie was pitched. Being in a bit of a hurry, I did not practice MCCD and went ahead and paid to watch it recently. It was surprisingly almost good. I enjoyed the look of the movie [even the credits] with some scenes that featured very good use of the slow-motion filming [the bombed warehouse]. But the fight club scenes were so gratuitous that they served as an unwelcome reminder that I was watching a rather predictable film, to ensure it’s success no doubt. And then there was the frequently undecipherable dialogue.

I pause to note that I’m not against gratuitous scenes as a rule, but definitely when they are inserted to serve as a billboard for personal trainers — as in … hey Robert Downey looks in shape, but isn’t he around my age and been a serious druggie for long stretches?

vargasMy favorite gratuitous scene was in The Name of the Rose, the 1986 film based on Umberto Eco’s book. I hadn’t read the book and was not expecting a sex scene in a Medieval murder mystery taking place in a monastery. The wordless, but not silent, scene featured a beautiful Chilean-born actress named Valentina Vargas [pictured], whom no doubt ended any realistic prospect that Adso would complete his training.

But back to the dialogue. The movie reminded me of the 1980 movie Altered States in that the dialog isn’t really meant to be heard. When happened then was that the screenwriter — Paddy Chayefsky whose credits included Marty and Network — had his name removed from the movie. So it made me wonder if there might be any issues with those who came up with the story for this movie. In doing so, I think I got an insight about how movies get made and why they tend to sound the same.

These are the people associated with developing the script used in the Sherlock Holmes movie:

  • Lionel Wigram – Producer and credited with Screen Story – made his money as a producer for two recent Harry Potter movies. Other claim to fame is that he produced a movie which featured Vanilla Ice as a latter day James Dean in 1991. Wigram is the one who came up with the initial story to be used in the movie. He brought the story, part of the money and his connections, given that he was an executive at Warner Brothers for 10 years. A more accurate way to look at it is that since he brought at least part of the money, he gets to bring the story.
  • Michael Robert Johnson – Credited with Screen Story and Screenplay – First credited movie experience.
  • Anthony Peckham – Credited with Screenplay – He’s been around since 1990, but career has apparently just taken off given that he has another film out now [Invictus] and is working on four other films in development.
  • Simon Kinberg – Credited with Screenplay – Ever try and figure out where a bad smell is coming from until you spot … afterwards, it was so obvious. That’s what it felt like to learn about the ubiquitous Mr Kinberg. In a Holmes-like manner, the facts all came together the more I learned about his work. This is the type of guy responsible for why most movies tend to sound the same. This is the type of guy brought in to smooth out the story line, insert political correctness, clever double entendre’s and of course metrosexual references. He is the unwitting poster-boy of movie mediocrity, film-story-by-the-numbers personified. A list of his screenplay credits:

    Mr and Mrs Smith
    X-Men: The Last Stand
    Jumper
    xXx: State of the Union

The makeup of the people who make our movies – now and then

A closer look at Mr Kinberg’s background:

He was born in London, England, and his family moved later on to the United States. Kinberg went to the prestigious Brentwood School in Los Angeles, CA and graduated in 1991. He later graduated from Brown University, Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude, and received his MFA from Columbia University Film School. 

While still in film school, Kinberg sold a pitch to Warner Brothers, then went on to write scripts for Disney, Sony, and Dreamworks, working with Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, McG, and others. After finishing school, Kinberg moved to Hollywood, where his first screenwriting credit was a sequel to the smash hit action film xXx (2002), xXx: State of the Union. The film was a disappointment, but his next screenwriting venture was the screenplay for Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

marty_A closer look at Mr Chayefsky’s background:

Born in the Bronx, New York in 1923 to Ukrainian Jewish parents, Chayefsky attended DeWitt Clinton High School, and then the City College of New York, graduating with a degree in accounting, and then studied languages at Fordham University. He joined the U.S. Army during World War II, where he received both a Purple Heart and the nickname Paddy. 

Serving in the 104th Infantry Division in the European Theatre, he was near Aachen, Germany when he was wounded, reportedly by a land mine. While recovering from his injuries in the Army Hospital near Cirencester, England, he wrote the book and lyrics to a musical comedy, No T.O. for Love. First produced in 1945 by the Special Services Unit, the show toured European Army bases for two years. The London opening of No T.O. for Love at the Scala Theatre in the West End marked the beginning of Chayefsky’s theatrical career. During the London production of this musical, Chayefsky encountered Joshua Logan, a future collaborator, and Garson Kanin, who invited Chayefsky to join him in working on a documentary of the Allied invasion, The True Glory.

After returning to the United States, Chayefsky worked in his uncle’s print shop, Regal Press, an experience which provided a background for his later teleplay, A Printer’s Measure. Kanin enabled Chayefsky to spend time working on his second play, Put Them All Together (later known as M is for Mother), but it was never produced. Chayefsky was married to Susan Sackler in February 1949, and their son Dan was born six years later. Paddy and Susan Chayefsky remained together until his death.

Chayefsky died in New York City of cancer in August 1981 at the age of 58.

Altered_statesWhich background do you think would be most representative of the movie fans they are writing for, Kinberg’s or Chayefsky’s? Can anyone imagine someone like Kinberg [Ivy league MFA] ever serving in the military? Getting an accounting degree? Working in a print shop?

The answer to all my questions today is no [befitting a conservative in the age of O]. I doubt these writers object to their dialogue being butchered, heck the director probably did them a favor. But one great mystery remains. How in the world did Mr Kinberg not have a hand in Paul Blart: Mall Cop?

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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